Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: April 2017

30 April – Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Gospel Luke 24:13-36

“You foolish men!”

Sometimes Jesus can be pretty harsh.

Two of his closest mates, the names of which we are not given, decide to head off. They’ve witnessed what was a particularly gory public execution of their friend and leader – one whom they were sure was special, perhaps evening the messiah.

The confusion would have been terrible. What do you do when the one for whom you have left everything has suddenly died – and died in a way reserved for the worst of criminals? Peter and the others, we are told, had gone fishing – attempting to return to life prior to that earth-shattering event which was the person of Jesus.

Like Pete, and the lads who joined him fishing, these two sought to return to life ‘as normal’. Thinking that they could resume what they had lived prior to this encounter.

Jesus, though hidden to them at this time, was right it seems to point out how foolish this idea was? How could they not have seen and believed the message of the prophets literally enfleshed and lived out in the person of Jesus?

What strikes me in reading this passage, is that after his miraculous appearance to them at the breaking of the bread, these two come to their senses realising that, in fact, while he had spoken to them, their hearts had ‘burned within them.’ The words of Jesus as he walked with them prior to his unveiling himself at the breaking of the bread were rekindling the fire of divine love which they had experienced and were so reluctantly turning away from. The prospect of returning to life as it was lived prior to this encounter is somehow ridiculous. How can I possibly resume a life without Christ after having encountered him in such a profound way?

Our encounter today is with Christ bodily present in His Church that group of believers who are his ongoing and continuing presence here on earth. In His Church, and through the Sacraments, we encounter Christ, and the truth of the Gospel causes our hearts to burn.

16April – Easter Sunday of the Resurrection (Year A)

Gospel Jn 20:1-9

“They ran together …”

Eugène Burnand, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on Easter Morning, 1898.

Eugène Burnand, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on Easter Morning, 1898

 

Peter and John had witnessed some pretty incredible things in the three or so years that preceded the events of the past few days. This Jesus, that man from Nazareth, had burst into their lives and set them on a new and different path – something exciting had taken hold of them and had deepened their awareness of reality. But the events of the past few days had seen things come crashing down around them. What they knew to be an unshakable foundation had seemingly been rocked. The events of Good Friday would have rattled them to the very core of their being – had they lost all hope?

We can imagine the scene.

It is Sunday. One can imagine the crisp morning air. The grass covered in dew. Motivation levels low. Confusion reigning. An overwhelming sense of deep, deep sorrow. And then, this message from their dear friend, Mary of Magdala. Immediately they set out.

They run. Desperate to see what had unfolded, they couldn’t get there fast enough. Dare they hold out hope for something miraculous?

They run together, but John being younger and obviously fitter got there ahead of Peter. He reached the tomb, but there was given pause – perhaps acknowledging the sacredness of this moment – of this place. But Peter, true to form, reaches the tomb and barrels forward, entering the sepulchre. Seeing evidence of the resurrection.

He, like us, struggled to believe the testimony given to him by Mary. He was not content to live as though the event of Jesus could be merely a memory. He had to experience the Risen Christ for himself. He had to be ‘seized anew’ by this most ‘overwhelming fact of human history’ (PMO, 4).

His honest intensity at which they set out to verify the fact of the resurrection (captured beautifully by Burnand) needs to be our own.

9 April – Passion Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Gospel Matthew 21:1-11

“This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee”

The crowds who accompanied Jesus as he entered Jerusalem shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’

It would have caused quite a stir. Here comes this bloke, riding into town on a borrowed beast, the requisitioning of which he did so invoking a right reserved to kings, accompanied by crowds shouting, and declaring otherwise preposterous things about him.

“When he entered Jerusalem,” we are told, “all the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’” The people of Jerusalem, were rightly shaken. And the appearance of Jesus should shake us too.

This is a perennial question, asked by all of us. It is, in fact, a question that demands an answer of us. There is no possibility of neutrality here. His is a presence that demands of us a response.

The week ahead is a unique one in the life of Jesus. His teachings become increasingly apocalyptic and mysterious, he violently cleanses the Temple, causing a tremendous stir. By the end of the week, he has polarised the city, and has few people left to vouch for him. This ‘prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee’ has not found much by way of welcome. In fact, he has so angered the hierarchy, and so disrupted the life of the city that everyone wants him to be gone.

We are often wont to ponder how would this play out in our own day – wondering if Jesus had just been lucky enough to be born into a modern liberal society, would he have avoided this rather ignominious end?

The answer to this can be found in our own response to Jesus – Who is he? What role do I afford him in my own life?

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